So What’s Wrong with One Man Owning all the Media Anyway?

Today’s Irish Examiner, Irish Daily Mail and Irish Times front pages all ran with the ongoing story of Denis O’Brien’s unprecedented attempts to gag the media from reporting Dail speeches; normally covered under Dail Privilege. While the press has been gagged from reporting the words of Catherine Murphy TD, the story has exploded both nationally and internationally and acted to expose, in the clearest fashion, the dangers of media concentration and oligarchical ownership. Whilst various journalists, editors and broadcasters working in the O’Brien empire have claimed that O’Brien does not interfere in editorial matters, it is now beyond credulity that the man who has successfully gagged RTE, The Irish Times and has threatened Broadsheet.ie with legal action does not interfere in the papers and radio stations that he owns and controls.

Today’s O’Brien owned Irish Independent is a clear example of this; whether O’Brien directly interferes or his editors are well enough house trained for him not to need to has little relevance, today’s Indo speaks for itself.

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The front page, unlike the Times, Examiner and Mail is not concerned with the constitutional crisis involving Dail privilege and press freedom. Rather, the Indo returns to its old favourite of attacking public sector workers for the possibility of getting a 2% pay ‘increase’. The front page article  does not use the expression ‘pay restoration’  framing this as a pay increase rather than a extremely modest restoration from cuts of at minimum 14%. The paper doesn’t seem to hold the same concern towards the monies the state lost on the Siteserve deal, the very story O’Brien lawyers are busy gagging. To get to the story of the week we have to wait until we get to page 22 where we are met with a short news report and no editorial comment. The Saturday weekly political supplement contains nothing on what is probably the most important media story since Section 31. It is also worth remembering that O’Brien’s company Siteserve (at the centre of this scandal) has received contracts from Irish Water, It is also worth remembering that O’Brien’s media empire has led the way in support for the charges as well as demonisation of the movement opposing the; a conflict of interest worthy of an editorial or two one might think?

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The Elephant In The Room: Report on UK media ownership

Reblogged from Media Reform Coalition (UK) originally posted April 2014

The report considers the changing landscape of media ownership across national, regional and local press, as well as radio, TV and internet news sources. Although the state of the UK’s media has been under close examination since the start of the Leveson Inquiry in 2011, media ownership has somehow managed to escape from scrutiny. It is the elephant in the room: obvious to all but never discussed.

‘The Elephant In The Room’ charts some worrying trends that signal the increasing concentration of UK media into fewer and fewer hands. We view media plurality as crucial for a healthy democracy, and vital for ensuring the public has access to a wide range of news and views from independent providers.

The statistics gathered about the spread of local media are worrisome – 1/4 of all Local Government Areas (LGAs) aren’t served by a local newspaper, while 35% are covered by only a single local news outlet. Since March 2011, a total of 141 local papers have shut down, and now in 224 LGAs (55% of total) the same 4 companies have majority ownership of the local market.

The ownership of national newspapers remains concentrated in just a few large companies: 70% of the UK national market is controlled by just three companies (News UK, Daily Mail and General Trust, and Trinity Mirror), with Rupert Murdoch’s News UK fully holding a third of the entire market share.

55% of national radio listenership is held by the BBC’s channels, however news content for almost all commercial radio stations is provided by Sky News, giving them 43% of the national audience share for radio.

The collapse of the BSkyB deal in 2011, following the revelations of the phone hacking scandal, was a small victory for plurality in the UK. However, when viewed in context of the huge cross-media operation of News Corporation, the figures give no reason for celebration or complacency.

News Corp. still holds 39% in BSkyB, effectively counting as joint-leadership between the two companies. Along with its print and radio news outlets, News Corp. controls 20% of the market share across all UK media outlets, almost twice that of the public service news services provided by the BBC.

The report demonstrates that concentration in ownership across the UK’s news and information markets has reached endemic levels. The existing Public Interest Test (which sees regulators and government taking occasional looks at media plurality) has failed to prevent the continued concentration of UK media into fewer and fewer hands.

Along with wider structural remedies to protect local and regional media the report recommends that ownership limits should be enshrined in statute, to ensure that the public is always served by a pluralistic and independent media.

Full report can be downloaded here